Campers rescue woman who survived for 7 days after veering off California cliff

When Chad Moore discovered the gnarled remains of a Jeep at the bottom of a 60-metre coastal bluff, the last thing he expected to find was a survivor.

'I couldn't believe that they were even real,' Angela Hernandez says of couple who found her

Authorities tend to Angela Hernandez, foreground centre, after she was rescued, in Morro Bay, Calif., south of Big Sur. (Monterey County Sheriff's Office via Associated Press)
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When Chad Moore spotted the gnarled remains of a Jeep at the bottom of a 60-metre coastal bluff in California, the last thing he expected to find was a survivor. 

He and his wife were camping near Big Sur when they made the startling discovery on Friday.

"The roof of the car was ripped off like a tin can," Moore told As It Happens guest host Laura Lynch.

"I was expecting to find a body, or a couple of bodies, so I asked my wife Chelsea to stay back while I take a closer look at the scene."

The couple looked around, but found no signs of human remains. They were making their way back when they heard a faint voice, crying for help. 

It was Angela Hernandez, a 23-year-old Portland, Ore., woman who had been missing for seven days. 

Surviving the fall 

"Angela took a limping step forward and put her hand in the air to wave to us," Moore said. "We ran to Angela and we all just kind of collapsed to our knees as we tried to figure out what just happened."

Hernandez told them she had driven off the cliff one week earlier after swerving to avoid a rabbit.

"The only thing I really remember after that was waking up. I was still in my car and I could feel water rising over my knees. My head hurt and when I touched it, I found blood on my hands," Hernandez, who is now recovering in hospital, wrote on Facebook.

"I took off my seatbelt and found a multi-tool I kept near my front seat. I started hitting the driver-side window with it. Every bone in my body hurt."

She was able to break free from the Jeep and swim to shore, but was too injured to make the treacherous climb up.  

So she remained stranded there under the cliff for a week, surviving by using a radiator hose from her car to siphon water from a nearby stream.

"Every day, this became my ritual. I'd walk up and down the beach looking for new high grounds, screaming 'help' at the top of my lungs, and collecting water falling from the top of the cliffs," she wrote. 

'We had finally found each other'

Then one day, she spotted Chelsea.

"I screamed, 'HEEELLLPPPPP!' and then got up as quickly as I could and ran over to her. She was with a man and I don't think they could believe their eyes," Hernandez wrote. 

"I couldn't believe that they were even real. I couldn't believe that we had finally found each other."

Hernandez was in rough shape when they found her, Moore said.

She was weak and sunburned with tattered clothes, a broken clavicle and two black, bloodshot eyes.

"I was definitely in shock," Moore said. "I knew we found a girl who needs help and I knew we were going to get her off that beach that night."

First responders used ropes to pull Hernandez to safety after she drove her Jeep over a cliff in coastal California. (Monterey County Sheriff's Office/Facebook )

Authorities eventually arrived on the scene and used climbing gear to reach Hernandez.

"They got her in a gurney type of basket and hoisted her off the beach in the dark with ropes up a steep cliff through poison oak and branches," Moore said.

Hernandez was airlifted to hospital.

'Luck and timing' 

Moore said it was "absolute luck and timing" that led them to her.

He and his wife had planned to go surfing, but the weather conditions weren't ideal, so they went hiking to scout a good fishing spot instead.

"My wife did not want to go down that trail. It's not even a trail. It's super dangerous," he said. "I had to kind of twist her arm."

Adventurer Chad Moore and his wife Chelsea Moore were hiking when they found Hernandez. (Submitted by Chad Moore)

They had to use ropes to climb down to where they found Hernandez.

Moore is glad they took the risk. 

The couple spoke to Hernandez on the phone Thursday night, he said. 

"She definitely has a lot of healing still to do, mentally and physically, but she's just in great spirits and so thankful that she made it and that she's with her family again," he said. 

"We're going to be friends forever. That's for sure. No matter what, we're always going to think of each other."

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Associated Press. Produced by Sarah Cooper.

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